O'Neal said he learned there is no one style of leadership, and executives "have to modulate between humor and being serious. ... You have to know when and how to use your humor."
One person who knows how to use humor is Mickey Arison, owner of the Miami Heat and CEO of Carnival , the cruise line. O'Neal got to know Arison when he played for the Heat as part of a 19-year National Basketball Association career that included the Orlando Magic, Los Angeles Lakers and the Boston Celtics. He retired from pro basketball last year.
"I'd say 90 percent of his style is humor," O'Neal said. "He's a fabulous leader."
O'Neal spent five years getting his doctorate from Barry University in Florida — he receives his sheepskin on Saturday — but he spent five seconds thinking about his picks for the NBA finals: Heat vs. San Antonio Spurs.
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CNBC.com with wires.